So many ladies that I talk with tell me that Christmas is a common time for them to gain weight. And the unfortunate thing about this is that if the weight is still on at Easter, then it is likely to remain there for good.
An Australian research study published in May 2023 tracked 375 adults across a 12 month period to better understand when and why we gain weight.
Study participants were recruited in South Australia, and they were aged 18 to 65 years and able to walk.
The aims of the study were to:
- Examine whether weight changed across the week and according to the season.
- Determine whether there were changes in weight during festive periods.
- Understand the patterns of daily weight changes among adults who maintained, gained, and lost weight during the 12 month period.
Measuring weight gain, loss and maintenance
The participants of this study were asked to weigh themselves daily, first thing in the morning, wearing minimal clothing, and after going to the toilet.
Weight change categories for the 12 month period were based on the mean weight for the first two weeks compared with the mean of the last two weeks of the study.
A weight change of 2% up or down categorised participants as either gaining or losing weight, respectively.
So if you began the year at 80kg and ended at 81.6 kg, then you would be allocated to the weight gain group, and if your weight was 78.4kg at the end of the year, you would be allocated to the weight loss group.
To determine weekly, the days of the week were used, and seasonal changes were calculated using the midpoint of the season.
What were the results?
Weekly weight change
Weekly weight fluctuated by 0.3%, so for a weight of 84kg, that’s 252g each week.
Monday and Tuesday were the heaviest days of the week, with weight decreasing gradually over the week.
Weekly weight fluctuations were similar for the annual weight gain and weight maintenance groups.
The weight loss group experienced small weekly weight fluctuations.
Yearly weight change
Weight increased noticeably and quickly during the Christmas-New Year and gradually decreased from January to April (summer to autumn).
There was a slower weight increase from April to October (autumn to spring) and then a decrease from October to mid-December (spring to early summer).
The weight increase at Easter was, on average, 244 g, and the increase for the summer festive period was 0.8% to 1.0% with an average of 672 to 840g.
Weight gain, compared to weight loss and maintenance groups
All subgroups gained weight during the summer holiday period.
Those who maintained their weight—144 participants—over the 12 months gradually lost weight from January to April, with a gradual weight gain from April to October and a slight decrease from October to mid-December.
The participants who experienced weight gain—87 participants—put on more weight during the months of April through to July. This was, on average, 924g.
What causes weekly and seasonal weight gain?
The weekly weight patterns from this study were similar to those from other studies in the U.K. and Europe.
Researchers propose that weight gain may occur over weekends due to changes in food and alcohol consumption, possibly lower levels of exercise and more screen time.
One study from the U.S. showed that energy from food consumption was 6% higher on weekends.
The annual weight gain in this study was due to the additional weight gained over the winter months.
Research conducted in the northern hemisphere has shown a doubling of winter weight gain compared to this Australian study. But this is probably due to winter and Christmas occuring together!
Diet-related weight gain
I would like to propose that the fluctuations in weight are also related to dieting practises.
I am only reporting on what ladies have shared with me in our community.
Often, food restrictions occur during the week, and then you relax on the weekends.
Common times for dieting are also after winter and after Christmas, and these relate to the weight loss cycles reported in this study.
What’s the concern with yo-yo dieting and weight?
The researchers from the Australian study and other studies express concern with weight fluctuations.
Individuals whose weight appeared to yo-yo the most during the year ended up gaining weight in this study.
Yo-yo weight patterns are related to poorer weight control and poorer health outcomes, including:
- More food cravings.
- Loss of muscle and gain of body fat.
- Increased belly fat increases your risk of diabetes and heart disease.
- Contributes to binge eating habits.
- Regaining of weight puts stress on your heart.
- May contribute to gall stones.
- It upsets the balance of your gut bacteria.
- It wastes so much of your precious time.
- Yo-yo dieting makes you feel like a failure, when really the diets are at fault.
Comments about the study
No research study is perfect, as it is difficult to live normally when you are participating in a study, especially one that runs for 12 months.
The daily act of weighing could have caused participants to alter their eating or exercise patterns, which altered weight changes.
The mean annual weight gain in this study of 282g across all participants is much less than the reported 1 to 3 kg in other studies.
Avoiding weight gain
This study shows that many Australians are prone to gain weight over the winter and summer periods.
I proposed that this aligns with common dieting periods, before and after summer.
I recommend that you adopt a personalised way of eating that does not rely on a diet or weighing yourself.
Research that I have shared on this website and the experience of ladies in the Eating for You community show that a diet is not required to attain and maintain a healthier weight.
The practise of mindful eating is successful once you have removed the dieting programming that you have installed from 10, 20, 30, or more years of dieting.
If you are ready to stop yo-yo dieting, then join me in a free 15-minute call.
You will get to sample a mindfulness approach to eating for free.